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Where Can You Drive With an International Permit

An international permit is a document that is required to drive abroad. It’s issued for a period of one year and it’s only valid if you also have a national driving license with you as proof that you can actually drive. You’ll also need to show an international driving permit if you want to rent a car in most countries.

The permit is issued by the International Drivers Association (IDA) and it’s one of the easiest documents to get if you’ve already passed your driver’s test.

What Countries Accept the International Driving Permit?

At this point, it’s easier to answer which countries don’t accept this document, since it’s one of the most widely accepted personal documents in the world. The permit is currently used in over 150 countries across the globe and regardless of international alliances and political systems.

This applies only to the permit used for personal vehicles. If you want to drive abroad commercially – a different set of rules is applied, even though there are some international permits you can use to that end, as well. What vehicle is considered to be commercial depends on its purpose and size.

China – The Big Exemption

China is one of the most important exceptions to the rule we just outlined. It doesn’t accept the international permit and it doesn’t make an exception for national permits to be used on its soil. In order to drive in China, you’ll need to produce a national license issued by the state.

There are, however, special licenses issued to tourists that are easier to obtain, and don’t last as long when compared to licenses issued to Chinese citizens. If you plan to take a road trip through China, you’ll need one of those.

An Intra-American Permit

An intra-American permit is another international permit that’s used to drive across borders as long as you can prove that you also have a national license. It applies only to citizens of the Americas. Brazil is an interesting exception because it accepts the Intra-American permit but doesn’t accept the international one.

Some countries that accept these two permits also allow citizens of some countries to use their own national permits. For instance, that’s the case with both Canada and Mexico which allow US drivers to use their national licenses when visiting.

Using a National Permit

Some counties have bilateral agreements that allow the drivers to use their national permits only while visiting. It’s usually a sign of good diplomatic relations between the countries. For instance, it’s often overlooked that US citizens can drive in Russia with their national permit only – and for a period of one year.

EU countries, for instance, allow their citizens to drive across the EU with national permits only. This is still the case with UK drivers, visiting the continent, but it’s not clear how that will be the case, now that the UK is no longer an EU member.

A Time Limit

An international driving permit is valid for a year. After that time, you’ll need to renew the permit or obtain the local permit issued to the resident. An international permit is easy enough to renew, and it can be done online, while you’re visiting a foreign country. It’s important, however, to renew it before the old one expires so that you’re still allowed to drive.

The permit is only acceptable if you’re carrying a valid national license with you. It lasts about five years in most cases. The national license can’t always be renewed online and that can mean you’re stuck without a license if it expires while you’re abroad.

Languages and Documents

An international driving permit is written in several languages commonly used across the world. Therefore, it’s made to be an international document and chances are that it will be understood regardless of where you decide to travel with it.

National documents usually aren’t written in foreign languages and if you want to have a copy of them prepared for your foreign trip, you’ll need to hire the services of a licensed translator. It needs to be an authorized translation and it can come in handy if you need to provide additional documents alongside the permit.

Having an international driving permit is worth your while since it’s a document that most countries recognize and that allows you to travel with ease. There are ways to travel to countries that don’t recognize the permit, but given how inexpensive the permit is, you should still get one, if you plan to travel abroad.

Photo by Hannes Egler on Unsplash 


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